1.6 Billion Muslims
By Nayyer Ali MD
Last year the Pew Research Center released its detailed report on the size and location of the world’s Muslim population. Their staff tracked down the best available data in every country, and they generated a fascinating report. The headline is that there are more Muslims than most estimates had assumed, and the global total is 1.6 billion. This makes Islam the world’s second largest religion, compared with about 2.2 billion Christians.
In the next 20 years though, the Muslim total is projected to grow another 30% and reach 2.2 billion. Because the Muslim population is much younger, it is likely that under the age of 20, the number of Muslims slightly exceeds the number of Christians, with obvious implications for who will lead the numbers race later in the century.
By 2030, the three largest Muslim countries will be India, Indonesia, and Pakistan. The first two will each have about 235 million Muslims, while Pakistan will be the largest with 255 million. To think at independence there were only 35 million people in West Pakistan, this is a huge expansion.
While population growth in the Muslim world is going to be quite dramatic, the rate of growth is slowing. It is dropping from over 2% per year in 1990 to under 1.4% by 2030. But it is running about 1% faster than the global non-Muslim population. What this means is that the Muslim share of the total is growing, and with that growth there is also significant immigration to Western Europe and North America. The end result will be politically significant changes in global demographics.
In South Asia for example, in 1947 British India the proportion of Hindus to Muslims was about 3:1. By 2030, that ratio will be 3:2, though the Muslim population is divided between Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. There will be almost 700 million Muslims in South Asia.
In Europe, immigrant Muslims will make up a significant fraction of European population, but the fears of “Eurabia” put forth by anti-Muslim bigots is way overblown. 10% of France will be Muslim, as will 8% of Germany and 7% of Britain. Russia will be 14% Muslim, not due to immigration, but by virtue of the natural growth of its Muslim minorities.
In North America, Canada will have 2.7 million Muslims, almost 9% of the population, up from 900,000 today. The United States is currently estimated to have about 2.6 million Muslims in 2010, but rapid immigration and natural growth will drive that to over 6 million by 2030. At that point I project that Muslim votes will matter in national elections, especially as Muslim populations are concentrated in important states like Florida, Michigan, and Virginia.
In the Middle East the biggest political effect will be in Israel and Palestine. The Muslim population of Israel will rise to over 2 million, making up almost 25% of the population. There will be over 7 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, making the total Palestinian population, including Christians, close to 10 million people, while the Jewish total will be around 6-7 million. The Zionist domination of the land and the subjugation of the Palestinians will not continue as a result.
The rise of Muslim populations in Europe, Russia, and North America will have political implications. Politicians will have to take into account the Muslim voter and his or her desires and priorities. The recent French Presidential election would have had a different winner if Muslims had not voted overwhelmingly for the Socialist candidate. In the US, the disastrous Bush years have pushed the vast majority of Muslims to vote Democrat, and Obama will likely get 90% of the Muslim vote, though it is small. But in 2030, it could be a key part of the Democratic national coalition.
The last century has been one of remarkable population growth for every country, but in general, Muslims have grown faster than non-Muslims. The reasons are complex, despite that history, the same forces slowing growth elsewhere are at play in Muslim populations. By 2050 or so population growth will come to a stop. The world though, will have been transformed. It is stunning to think that there were merely 180 million Muslims on the entire Earth in 1900, and by 2050 that number may reach 2.7 billion.
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